PSU Altoona kicks off MLK week
Guest speaker calls for education, equality
A keynote speaker at a Penn State Altoona event celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. urged audience members to consider ways to make the civil rights movement leader’s dream of justice for all a reality.
“What will you do in the ‘fierce urgency of now?'” Shavonne Shorter asked attendees Monday, quoting King.
In remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr., Shorter said the 1960s was not that long ago when the civil rights leader was fighting for equality.
“We didn’t have the things we have today where people go to school with people of different races, where people had to drink from different water fountains,” Shorter said.
“So we need to celebrate our ancestors. In my family, we’re talking about my great-grandmother, my grandmother.
“We need to celebrate what they went through for us to be where we are today,” she added. “We need to appreciate everybody who was a part of the movement, all the way up from the leaders of the movement like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to our local community members who are a part of the struggle as well.”
As a way to combat racism and oppression, the Bloomsburg University professor advocated for education on the intersectionality of diverse groups of people and commented on the difficulty of watching the news today.
She called for equity across various marginalized groups, whether it’s female victims of sexual assault or other minorities labeled in dual stereotypical ways, in order to achieve true liberation.
“What is apparent is that we have to work together and fight with the members of all marginalized groups,” she said, “because we are them and they are us be it directly or indirectly.”
To exemplify the lack of diversity education, Shorter shared a story about interacting with people who didn’t know about the existence of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson.
Shorter added while her grandmother taught her about black history growing up, she said she realized she herself didn’t know enough about other minorities.
The guest speaker also said people can use their jobs for educational opportunities, drawing on an example of how a human resources employee could teach about microaggressions.
Audience members at the event brainstormed and discussed ways to promote social justice and listed local organizations and events that embrace diversity.
Donna Gority, who was the first female commissioner in Blair County, encouraged people to run for political offices and to show up at local school board, commissioner or town hall meetings.
Another audience member, Heather Turnwall, suggested simply extending invitations or a helping hand to international students in the area, referencing the Altoona English and Culture Club.
Other local organizations and groups mentioned by the crowd included the NAACP, WISE Women, the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation and the Blair County advisory board.
Patricia Curry, Altoona resident and event attendee, recommended hosting spiritual gatherings that enable people to learn about each other and their belief systems.
Curry said she hopes people can come together and pray for the country and President Donald Trump, as his decisions impact everyone.
Sue Patterson, assistant coordinator of diversity and inclusion for Penn State Altoona, noted the “amazing diversity” of the audience.
She said Monday’s event kicked off the university’s weeklong celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.
“I think this holiday is just a call to remember that we need to do better, that there are lots of people out there who mean wonderful intent and want to make changes and we don’t seem to know how to organize ourselves to make those changes,” Patterson said.
“So this is once again a call to organize ourselves and do better and celebrate our diversity, our uniqueness and learn about each other and have that conversation,” she added.
Other PSU Altoona events for Martin Luther King Jr. week include:
— What is Your Dream? discussion at noon today in the Fireside Lounge, Slep Student Center.
— Movie, “I Am Not Your Negro,” at 7 p.m. today in the Fireside Lounge, Slep Student Center.
— What is Your Dream? canvas painting from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Slep Student Center.
— Speaker Todd Snovel, executive director Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Fireside Lounge, Slep Student Center
— Ivyside Dance Ensemble performance and talk back at 1:45 p.m. Thursday in the Edith Davis Eve Chapel
Mirror Staff Writer Shen Wu Tan is at 946-7457.